​Overcoming your apprehension about collaborative construction

A module is lifted into place at the Surmont 2 SAGD project in 2012. Image: Joey Podlubny/JWN

The collaborative approach to major project delivery has proven successful around the world as well as in Alberta’s commercial and institutional construction, but it has yet to be widely adopted in the province’s industrial space.

That’s likely fueled by apprehension about having to change behaviours, according to people who have worked on successful collaborative projects. But they say it’s worth putting in the time and effort in order to realize big gains in cost, schedule and quality.

“The idea is that everyone leaves their company logo behind and accepts the new logo of whatever the project is, because it’s a shared risk-reward. Our profitability and our value of this project is at stake; it’s in the hands of every owner of that contract group,” says Randy Perry, senior project manager with Edmonton-based Collins Steel.

Collins Steel has worked on a number of collaborative contracts including commercial buildings, residential buildings and a growing number of schools. Perry will be presenting case studies about these projects at a workshop on May 7 hosted by GO Productivity and the Construction Owners Association of Alberta as part of the Project Alignment and Delivery initiative.

Their goal is to help industrial major project developers practically implement the lessons learned about collaborative construction from other sectors.

“Getting people in the same room really does eliminate the waste of waiting time and that whole traditional RFI process where you might be waiting for a couple of weeks for an answer,” Perry says, adding that can be uncomfortable for project teams that are used to being in silos.

“There’s that hierarchy that’s been drilled into the industry. Once you break down those walls and you have people working together, you can find some really good efficiencies of design and doing things maybe once instead of getting an idea and passing it down the line and then it moving back up again when there’s some challenges found.”

Collaborative construction is a two-way street of owners working differently with contractors, and contractors working differently with owners, says Ross Krill, Suncor Energy Inc.’s director of front-end execution, who will also be presenting at the May 7 workshop .

“I’ve seen success with it. It’s phenomenal when it works, but it’s really hard to get it working because it takes more time up front,” says Krill, who calls collaborative construction a “force-multiplier.”

“If you have multiple organizations that are aligned on a singular vision, you can really crystallize what success looks like. It’s powerful to see the team working together in different ways than traditionally, where we tend to focus on the transaction versus how we are actually going to work together to achieve something.”

The word “collaboration” can almost be removed and replaced with “communication,” says John Boudreau, director of business development with commissioning contractor OTS Ltd. Boudreau, who will also be presenting at the May 7 workshop , says a positive shift is underway where more Alberta industrial companies are adopting an early-planning philosophy.

This means that more companies are integrating commissioning and startup planning into the early stages of project delivery, which has more impact than one might think. Boudreau says that it is generally “guesstimated” that approximately five percent of a project’s cost is aligned to commissioning, “but that’s a skewed number because the faster that the asset can actually start generating revenue, that five percent is actually vastly more important than the number it looks like on paper.”

Attendees to the upcoming GO Productivity/COAA workshop will gain a better understanding of how collaborative construction works in practice. It will be of most benefit for project owners, designers and constructors, subcontractors, craft trades, logistics, service and product suppliers who want to learn more about and be better at collaborative approaches, according to Ken Chapman, GO Productivity’s executive-in-residence.

Click here for more information and to buy tickets.

GO Productivity helps industries build capacity for growth and optimization by facilitating a network of industry leaders as well as offering high-quality productivity improvement tools and services with instant and long-term results.